July 12, 2010

I can’t believe another week has gone by already.  I seem to be rather rapidly running out of time.  My laptop has crashed (again), apparently infected with a host of viruses, so I am updating from the kabinet.  Like many university campuses in summer, it’s pretty dead around here…

The staff at the U.S. Embassy invited me – as the U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Slovenia – to sit on the committee to select the Slovenian Fulbright Scholars and Students to the U.S.  In addition to myself, the committee consisted of someone from the embassy, and Slovenians from various academic fields and ministries.  So, in the past week, I spent a couple of days in Ljubljana where we interviewed candidates from both the physical and social sciences.  It was a very interesting process and a good experience for me.

On, shall we say, unofficial business, I took Sunny out to eastern Slovenia.  I have no idea how many castles Slovenia has, but I managed to visit 3 more of them (and saw several more from the road).

16th century map of regional castles (Grad Brežice)

The 13th century Grad Otečec (near Novo Mesto) has a great appearance as Slovenia’s only island castle on Reka Krka, but I didn’t go inside since it is now a 5-star hotel.

Grad Otočec

The 16th century Grad Brežice has an unprepossessing appearance inside the town of the same name – especially compared with the others I visited – but it has some absolutely amazing floor-to-ceiling frescoed halls and a very decent museum, complete with multilingual information sheets in each room.

The Knights Hall - Grad Brežice

The third – I’m not going to lie – looked closer on the map than it really was.  Primarily because it was on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere.  But, since Sunny and I are getting more used to each other, it was actually kind of fun.  Grad Podsreda, also dating back to the 13th century, has a fantastic situation.  There’s not much to the interior, although the best part is definitely the attic, which is not only cool in itself but also has an exhibit of photographs on local people and places.

Grad Podsreda

I also decided to visit Zagreb because, from where I was at the time, I was about as close as I was probably going to get.  On this trip at least.  I admit, it was a quick, guerilla-style visit, but I am waiting for Leo to give me a more thorough tour next year!  I loosely followed the walking tour of the upper and lower towns and grabbed lunch at a sidewalk cafe (a toasted pršut and mozzarella focaccia, with some sort of spread that I couldn’t identify…?).  Then I drove back to Koper through Croatia.  That part of the country is pretty mountainous and almost rivals Slovenia in scenery.  Almost.

Zagreb from the Upper Town

One of the "horseshoe" parks in Zagreb.

Lots of St. George imagery here as well as Ljubljana.

Also, I finally went swimming in the Adriatic.  Slovenia’s coast isn’t that long, and I thought I’d pretty much been over all of it, but this place was new to me.  It’s part of the Strunjan Nature Preserve, and you have to walk down a cliff to get to the wide stone “beach”.  It’s worth it.  If you swim far enough out, you can see each Koper, Piran and Trieste, but also look back at the deer grazing on the cliff behind you.  Not bad.

Apparently there’s always more I can learn about Istrian food.  My guide in all things Istrian, Miklas (although he’s actually from the Alps!), took me to what he declared to be the best seafood restaurant on the coast in Portorož.  They were out of their specialty (octopus!) that evening, so we had to settle for a mixed grill in olive oil with potatoes and a local malvazija.  It would have made a nice photo.  Apparently we were hungry.

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