Thursday, September 1, 2011

more new friends and a post-socialism wake up

we knew we were destined to travel through slovenia but we didn't know we would love it this much. on top of that pleasant realization we met two of the nicest human beings so far. while on the train from vienna to maribor, slovenia, we shared a compartment with michael, an ex-pat american who, with his wife paula, owns some incredibly beautiful land and a 150 year old farmhouse about 30 miles outside of maribor. well, we got to talking on the train, we were full of questions, michael was full of questions and we shared some homemade strudel with him that someone made for us in vienna. it was all quite nice and congenial. you know, those conversations you imagine yourself having while gently rocking on a train through rolling hills and green landscapes.

well, on a whim, we jumped off in graz, even though we were on our way to maribor. being easily swayed by others' suggestions, when the train stopped in graz we said goodbye to michael and headed our merry way. a couple of days later when we found an internet connection we also found an email from michael and paula graciously inviting us out to their farmhouse. by this time, we were on top of pohorje mountain for a few days but happily accepted their offer. michael was even kind enough to drive back into maribor to pick us up. but first, on our way out of town, we chaperoned him to "mr pet," the most westernized shopping experience this side of tito. a pet emporium to rival any american outlet, nestled in a brand new shopping mall that could exist next to any four-lane american road. we gotta say, it was hard to accept the fact that we were in slovenia at that moment. here we are in a ford being driven by a guy from st. louis going to buy kitty litter and we're shooting the breeze in english. unreal. after stumbling through broken slovenian and german for the last few days, this was fun!

40 minutes later, up a road alongside the drava river, charming towns one after the other, and farms in every direction, we were welcomed by paula. while being wowed by the scenery, the wonderful charm of an old farmhouse, suddenly there appeared a huge plate of garden fresh vegetables and hunks of cheese and meat. we happily made huge sandwiches and started chatting. after a tour of the farm, a small lesson on apple and pear trees, we hiked up through the hills to an old hunting lodge, the spot of a WWII sniper attack on some slovenian partizans. back at the farm paula and mike treated us to roasted pork and some more fresh vegetables (earlier, paula disappeared and came back with a big pile of freshly pulled beets. "do you like beets?" "JA, prosim!") and some homemade upside down plum cake, great conversation and a few of the most characterful cats you'll ever meet. this place reeks of history. topographically, it rests on a ridge overlooking lavrenc, so their "backyard" is a 1000 foot (i think) drop down to a small village complete with requisite white church nestled against a green backdrop. one hardly needs coffee in the morning waking up to that!

the next morning we were dropped off at the tiny podvelka train station and now sit happily in ljubljana planning our next move. after being misled by a conductor at maribor, and nearly missing our connection by one minute, (seriously, we realized our mistake, jumped off the wrong train, ran to the other side and jumped on the correct train and it immediately started moving. *whew*) we settled in for some stunning scenery, particularly the canyon stretch from celje to zagorje. wowza. the train carves its way through a winding canyon alongside a lazy river. it's what you see in travel brochures. all this for 13 Euros. that same train ticket in austria, distance-wise, would have easily been 40 Euros.

a little song, a little dance... podvelka, slovenia

we've only been in ljubljana for 18 hours but, after the quiet of pohorje, maribor and podvelka, last night's first impression along the river seemed a little like a disneyland version of a european old town center. three bridges across the ljubljanica river, pedestrian promenades on either side brimming with restaurants, bars and young'uns. of course, we still have much slovenian food to eat, some sparkling wine to drink, some jože plečnik architecture to absorb and today we hike the castle hill and storm the fortifications. we'll report back.


  1. a little seltzer down your pants ...

  2. Sounds amazing! And a special thank you to Chris for the rejoinder. :)

  3. i put that there specifically for the gourds fans out there. well done, indeed.

  4. Caldonia, where the hell you been?

    Dang, that *is* amazing. POST MORE PHOTOS! (please). Where you stayin' in Ljubljana?

  5. Wow, this is the perfect antidote to the new semester! Please oh please keep these travel stories rolling in. Love the pictures, too! You look happy!

  6. ah... Plečnik. the slavic Gaudi.

  7. coschr, you are correct! great comparison. funny, though, as we walk around it seems he's more of a copycat than an innovator. mostly italianate stuff and the structures of his own making are blocky. he's a student of otto wagner, though, and that makes us happy.

    and coschr, you are?