Friday, June 28, 2013

looking for quiet

It was a tossup: go back to Ljubljana one more time or head out to the mountains early in the morning?

In an uncharacteristic decision for us, Ljubljana won. I felt we'd shortchanged her yesterday in the evening drizzle. A few more morning hours would give a fuller image.

It was easy enough to again hop on the bus, get off downtown, walk a little, return. And I'll give you a few more photos -- of some of the more colorful buildings...

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...of the market (lots of berries today! We bought a quarter kilo)...

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...of the University building -- from which Tito spoke in 1945 and, too, from which reformers urged change in 1988...

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...of people listening to an orchestra rehearsal of the 1812 Overture out on the square. Yes, many people move by bicycle in this city and they use sidewalks for this, reminding me of Japan, where bicycles zip around pedestrians with arrogant confidence, scaring the daylights out of someone who is not expecting to be sideswiped from left or right.


...of the university theater courtyard -- Ed notes that it reminda him of Krakow. No, no, no! All different -- my response.

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So, was it worth losing a day in the mountains for more of the city? I'll leave that for you to decide at the end of the day.

Again, we skip taking the highway, again we take the local road, again we look for village and town names to guide us along. It's a pretty little drive and relatively short (less than two hours off highway).

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Less than two hours to where? Well, we're headed for Bled.

It's a small town at the edge of a glacial lake just at the tip of the Julian Alps -- the southeastern stretch of that beautiful chain of limestone peaks that stretches from one end of Europe to the next. Bled's population stands at 5000. But that's a misleading little number. Bled, it turns out, is a hoppin' tourist center, drawing (it seems) anyone and everyone who passes through Slovenia. Mind you, that's not a huge category of people, but if you're coming to this country, chances are you'll visit Bled.

On the upside -- it's pretty. It really is. There's a small island in the middle of the lake and a commanding castle to the side and the waters are deeply blue and still. It's all very refreshing and curative (to look at).

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And we should not be put off by the fact that as we drive in, we come across a commotion by Bled's grand hotel by the lake -- it turns out that Bled is a stopping point for the centennial Rolls Royce rally. Reading about it later, we find out that this is a bit of a tradition for Rolls enthusiasts -- to challenge your ancient car to cover all of Europe and finally, to meet up with other such drivers with their 100 year old spiffy machines (average price -- oh, some half a million) in Vienna and drive through the Alps -- Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and then back to Austria -- proving that the old girl can make it across even the most challenging inclines.

So we have before us all these Rolls Royce cars (Ed does like looking them over, I'll admit that)...

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...and some old car enthusiasts who aren't quite in the Rolls league, but what the heck...

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And in general, the town has a little more of a buzz to it than we would like.

We do have a very pretty room in a delightful Penzion -- run by a young couple who truly keep the place immaculately clean and fresh...

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...and it all does feel sort of Alpine and there are mountains to hike,  and the lake to admire,  even if you do have to share it with a host of others who are passing through here.  Some of them in their Rolls.

In any case, we're here for only two nights and since the weather is cooperating today, we set out for a recommended hike up to the next village over and to the little church still higher in the hills

Of course, we set out late. Close to 4. Ah well, the light is pretty then.

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Directions as to where to go and how to begin are a little confusing, but eventually we find our way up and we relax now, because it really is a beautiful area. And, as Ed says again and again -- so well tended! Slovenians take care of their land. We see no litter in this country (I mention this because we get our share of beer cans and soda bottles tossed out by those who drive by the farmette back home). And, of course, these mountain homes are bedecked with geraniums. People care.

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Once we reach the top of the hill, we have several paths to choose from and here we really hit gold, because our chosen path leads us not only to lovely panoramic views of the mountains before us...

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...but, too, it puts us in a sheep field. Now, we have seen, over the years, our share of sheep. I mean, in Scotland, you could not walk ten paces in the countryside without encountering next year's mutton for your plate. And in the Pyrenees, sheep's milk cheese is the fromage of choice. So yawn, sheep.

But these are different. First of all, we encounter them grazing in a field of beautiful ferns.

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And whereas most sheep flock together and run from you when you approach, these guys do not. Indeed, when we pause to take in the prettiness of it all, one adorable lamb comes over, as if asking to to be admired, petted.

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Rare. Really rare and quite moving.

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I'll spare you the movie clip, but it is actually quite sweet, especially when Ed walks away and the lamb follows, emitting some complaining noises at being left behind.

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One more glance, this time toward Ljubljana somewhere on the horizon...

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...Then, down we go, in the soft tones of an evening sun, with knee deep flowers flanking our path...


... and so, not surprisingly, past several beehive stacks...

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... back to the villages at the foot of the hills.

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We pause by a very inviting children's playground -- nothing fancy, but posing a few challenges which I tell Ed kids would be good at and we would not.
Let's try -- is his response and we do have some fun moments hanging on to ropes and trying to balance our way across a stretch of a tie down strap.

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It's after 8 by the time we are at the lake again and it's unexpectedly chilly now. Low fifties maybe. We eat dinner at a lakeside place, at the edge of town. There are maybe a dozen tables spilling out toward the water and the cooking (grilling mostly) is done outside as well and so I'm not surprised to see everyone bundled up as if it were early spring instead of summer. I make a note of that: do not leave without a jacket in the evenings!

I order grilled calamari. I think it's the last time I'll have that option for a great many months and so I should have my fill now, while I'm just a short skip away from the Adriatic.


The food is well prepared, the Slovenian wine is quite pleasant and I forgive myself for choosing Bled as a stopping point in our mountain rambles.

We walk past the boats that many use to get to and from the island (a favorite activity for those who visit Bled).

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Lovely boats, really and the lake waters are beautiful as well.

We turn up the hill toward our Penzion Kaps tired as anything. A bed with a white quilt puffed up on top of it -- mmmm.