March 28, 2010

All right Betty, get out your AAA map of Slovenia.  I’m going to start putting it to the test.

I had my first – and probably only (am I making anyone feel guilty yet?) – visitors in Slovenia this week: Rebecca (former adviser at East Carolina/colleague from University of Texas/friend) and her friend Lola from Spain.  Neither had been to Slovenia before – or previously had any plans to for that matter – so they decided that this was their opportunity.  I sent them to down the coast to Piran when I was teaching, and when I was free, we rented a car for a day to explore parts of western/southern Slovenia. It was kind of an impromptu decision, so we weren’t terribly well organized and found out as we went that some places had limited off season hours or were inexplicably closed altogether (which seems to happen around here sometimes?), but I guess that’s part of the experience.

Lola and Rebecca with the Opel at Hrastovlje

They put me in charge of navigation for this adventure, mainly because I have a better grasp of place names around here.  As horrifying the idea of me in charge of directions may sound to some of you, I think I did a remarkably good job of not getting us lost.  But that probably has less to do with my navigational skills and more to do with good Slovenian road signs…

We started in the little town of Hrastovlje.  The main attraction there is the medieval walled Church of the Holy Trinity (in the photo above).  The church is famous for its frescoes, especially the Dance of Death, which Rebecca wanted to see because the imagery reminded her of things she had seen in her work in Mexico.  When we got there, we found a big sign – in multiple languages – on the locked gate that stated the church was closed on Tuesday.  It was Wednesday.

Our most successful venture of the day was a visit to Predjamski Grad (near the town of Postojna between Koper and Ljubljana) – a castle dating back to the 12th century built in a cave on the side of a cliff.  The back of the castle leads to a “secret” passage, and the dungeon is in a natural cavern with a torture chamber.  What we were most fascinated by, though, is a small viewing room down into the dungeon/torture chamber from the chaplain’s room!

Predjamski Grad

The dungeon in Predjama - complete with simulated torture in case you can't imagine it for yourself.

Finally, after a couple of other thwarted attempts to see some of the main attractions in the region, we headed towards Štanjel, a small medieval walled town in the Karst (west of Postojna).  We had planned to walk around a bit and try to find a gostilna for dinner so that we could have some good local food.  Unfortunately, Lola started feeling poorly after we got there, so we cut our visit short and returned to Koper.  The good news is she was fine, and I now know where the clinic is in Koper should I need it in the next 4 months.

The walls of Štanjel

It was late by the time we got around to dinner, so we ate at the restavracija adjoining their hotel.  It was actually recommended by my guidebook, but I never thought it looked open…  I had štiri siri fuži.  Apparently fuži is a local type of pasta – kind of like a thick penne? – and štiri siri is 4 cheeses, so basically a decadent macaroni and cheese (I thought of you, Amber).

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