Europe 2002

From Ashford to Athens

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Slovenian theatre

Alpine adventure (Days 1-4)
Viennese whirl (Days 5-9)
Slovenian theatre (Days 10-12)
Bombing it through Belgrade (Day 13)
Litohoro lazing (Days 14-16)
Olympic ideas (Days 17-19)
We are sailing (Days 20-21)
Assisi amblings (Days 22-23)
Breton brouhaha (Days 24-26)
Encore en Foix (Days 27-28)
Barcelona and back (Days 29-31)

Full diary [fast connections]

Day 10: Vienna > Ljubljana

A lot of my diary entries seem to begin with 'an early start' and today's will be no exception.

Our train left at 8am so it was an early start and out of the hostel by 7. I spent my few remaining euros on a Schnecke for breakfast. Even in the few days I've been here my German accent has improved dramatically. Now if I ask for a Schnecke I am given a pastry, rather than a look indicating "Why did you just say you wanted to murder my children?"

Six dull hours on the train enlivened by my second-ever stamp in my passport brought us to Ljubljana. We headed to Jezica, where I had reserved us a bungalow. Or so I thought. "Bungalow??? No reserve". "But I reserved it yesterday, on the phone. My name is MAYER. M-A-Y-E-R." "Mayer??? Bungalow??? No bungalow, no. You can camp here. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"

Oh joy. So it was back to slumming it in the tent. After a tiring day there wasn't much enthusiasm for a trip into Ljubljana so a hastily rigged up table tennis table provided the evening's entertainment.

Day 11: Ljubljana

Another day, another new capital city to explore.

One of the benefits of this kind of holiday is that we are all able to do our own thing; thus while Andy had headed off on the train in search of karst scenery, Richard and I took the bus into town for some joint sightseeing.

The joint portion of our trip ended acrimoniously half an hour later, somewhere deep in the Ljubljanan suburbs. We had overshot the centre (all my fault of course) and Richard was too mean to pay the bus fare back.

Needing some change I bought breakfast (dates and Sprite, when will I ever eat a proper breakfast again?) from a mini-market. I was a little embarrassed at using my 10,000SIT note (about �30) to buy 600SIT provisions - but I needn't have worried. Person 1 in the queue paid with a huge jar of 1SIT coins, person 2 paid with empty bottles.

Ljubljana is a small but charming city. I did most of the 'sights': the market, the cathedral, the castle (with an impressive 3D virtual reality guided town tour) and the various squares or trgs.

24 a pound bananas!

The cathedral

View from the castle

I wandered across the 'triple bridge' (certainly beats Three Bridges Station) and round the market for a while, my ambling sightseeing tour also taking in the Parliament building and some of Ljubljana's less attractive tower blocks.

The triple bridge

The Parliament

Clubbing, Ljubljana style (free fruit!)

We all met up for dinner, Richard being the most adventurous with cutlet of foal (verdict: meaty)

I rounded the evening off with some Slovenian high culture: a performance of 'Hazarski Slovar', or 'Dictionary of the Khazars', at the castle

Standing in line to
see the show tonight

and there's a light on,
heavy glow

By the way I tried to
say I'd be there

I had some misgivings, not least the language barrier, but I needn't have worried. The staging, music, choreography and obvious power of the performances more than made up for the fact that I couldn't understand a single word. It was a superb piece of theatre.

Triple Bridge by night

Day 12: Ljubljana

After a much-appreciated lie in we caught the bus into the city (this time with pre-paid zetoni).

Before Richard and Andy set off on their excursion to Bled, we booked our onwards train to Thessaloniki. Unfortunately this required a change at that little-known city of Beograd ... or infamous city Belgrade. After much negotiation and a phone call to Serbia ("This is Ljubljana calling...") the tickets were reserved.

Next I went to the British Embassy, situated in a tower block in central Ljubljana. Although the FCO website had assured us that visas wouldn't be necessary to visit Yugoslavia during the tourist season, we wanted to be sure.

The Slovenian receptionist informed me that seeing someone at the embassy would not be possible. "The British Embassy is open only from 9 until 12." Naturally it was already 1 o'clock. Lazy bloody diplomats. I'd better remember in future not to get my passport stolen or get captured by enemy guerrillas in the afternoon.

Buoyed by my recent cycling experiences in Vienna, I hired a bike for the afternoon for the bargain price of 500SIT.

My bike in the Tivoli Gardens

My (t)rusty two-wheeled friend took me to the Tivoli Gardens and the Museum of Contemporary History, the main highlight of which was a chess set made out of bread and saliva by a concentration camp prisoner. There was also a gallery of famous Slovenians. Hmmm. I eventually spotted one name I recognised: Joze Plecnik, the designer of much of modern Ljubljana.

Using your loaf

'Famous' Slovenians

Lunch/dinner (what should it be called? Dunch?) was obtained at the coincidentally named Cafe Plecnik before I set off for another whizz around the city on my bike.

The Dragon Bridge

I had been set the task of compiling provisions for tomorrow's train trip with 2000SIT (�6), thankfully with Slovene prices this was feasible.

Tomorrow will be a long day.