April 2, 2010

Despite being a small country, it certainly takes a long time to get from one end to the other – at least by train.  I spent the better part of a day traveling to Maribor (2nd largest city) in northeastern Slovenia.  Minor setback in the process of easing into spring – it was cold and raining.  So while it wasn’t exactly the best day for viewing the landscape from the train, there was a certain eerie picturesqueness to the mist-covered countryside.

Lučka – one of the geography faculty at the University of Maribor (2nd largest university with some 25,000 students) who I had met earlier at EMUNI – met me at the train station.  I didn’t really get to see much of the city, so I will have to make another trip at some point.  The university put me up in visiting faculty housing for the night, and I gave a lecture on cultural geography in the U.S. to geography students in the morning.

The head of the department took the rest of the day to show me around part of eastern Slovenia along the Croatian border.  (Literally.  As in, see that stream there?  That’s Croatia on the other side.)  We first had lunch at a sort of farm restaurant/microbrewery in a place called Olimje.  Of course I asked about what the local food was like and was told I should order the “peasant dish”.  That part of the country is much more influenced by German/Austrian foods than here, so, the “peasant dish” consisted of sausage and mustard, sauerkraut, and a potato dish (sort of a shredded baked potato mixed with some kind of broth, shaped into a ball and baked again?) as well as a cheese-and-cherry strudel and one of their local brews.

This area is mainly known for a resort development that began a couple of decades ago around some “healing” waters.  (Apparently the place was originally called the Atomske Toplice – the atomic spa – but they have since changed the name to Terme Olimia.)  In addition to the resort, though, the area has built up several other attractions for excursions or day trips.  We visited the Olimje Monastery, which was originally a 16th century castle.  I am not easily impressed by churches, but I have to admit that I was impressed by the chapel of the monastery with a stunning baroque black and gold altar and lavish frescoes.  It is especially impressive when you consider that this is traditionally impoverished countryside.  The monastery also has the 3rd oldest lekarna (pharmacy) in Europe.  There is also a chocolaterie and a deer farm (where one can both take pictures of grazing deer and eat deer products.)

Terme Olimia resort

Olimje Monastery

We also visited the historic spa resort of Rogaška Slatina.  The mineral waters here were discovered in the 16th century, and it became a popular resort in the 19th century.  You can almost imagine what it was like at that time – but not quite.  The central trg that once served as a promenade has not been particularly well maintained, and a rather institutional medical tower constructed during the communist era now looms at the end of the quad.  Uroš did have me “take the waters” so I should be quite healthy now…

Zdraviliški trg, Rogaška Slatina with 19th century hotels and 20th century tower

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4 Responses to “”

  1. Tom Nelson said

    What? No picture of you with “the” damn coat?

  2. amber said

    where are the photos of you in the white coat? I heard you ate at a McDonalds? how was it?
    How was Easter?

  3. Geez, I had no idea you guys were getting so attached to the coat! And here I’ve been trying to avoid taking any more pictures of me in it…

    Thanks for outing me, by the way. The foodies may never forgive me for my indiscretion. In my defense, it was late by the time I got back to Ljubljana from Maribor. I was tired and hungry. I didn’t know what would be open, and I didn’t feel like wandering around looking for something to eat. McDonalds was right there in the train station… For the record, it was just like McDonalds in the States. Aside from the fact that I ordered in pidgin sign language.

    Full details of Easter to come…

  4. Betty Cocklin said

    Velvet! I got a new smart phone and I was reading you in the car in the middle of the night and I accidentally unsubscribed. This phone is so sensitive it responds if I sneeze on it. anyhow I am trying to get back in.

    About the McDonalds, I like to go to McD wherever I am to see what’s different. I am very surprised you found nothing significant. For example in Norway they had McLox. We just got home from MA and they have decaf, organic coffee for the flavored iced coffee there. It’s usually something I, as a foodie, find interesting.

    I LOVE your blog. It’s totally my vicarious life.

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